Saturday, 18 September 2010

4 September 2010

There is one building that dominates the London skyline and that is St. Pauls Cathedral. Not sure why I didn’t decide to go sooner but I decided to go and I can say it is a brilliant building. Not because I felt God or anything but because the architecture and the paintings inside are beautiful.

St. Pauls Cathedral

I decided to first walk around the place and take it all in, and to the left of the entrance there is a little court yard called Paternoster Square with a cool monument in the middle of it. I didn’t quite get the name of it but you can see it here. And on the outside of the square there is Temple Bar which is was originally part of the London Wall marking the westernmost point of the City of London. It was moved back to London and placed in this location in 2004. It is weird that they moved it stone by stone to this location and put it back together and unlike Humpy Dumpy they managed it.

So into St Pauls I went and like most great cathedrals it takes your breath away with the paintings on the walls and the sheer size of it. You could spend hours under the dome staring up at the paintings finding new things but I decided this might give me a sore neck and there was more to see. From there I went down the sides and viewed the main alter which is all gold and glistens like you would expect but pretty impressive none the less.

After exploring the main part of the cathedral I headed up the stairs to the Whispering Gallery. I was blown away by this gallery. It is a dome where if you whisper against the wall on one side you can be heard clearly on the other side of the dome 32 metres away. A mother and her three kids were having a lot of fun whispering to each other.

Then it is up more stairs to the top two galleries where you can take photos of the city. It is great being able to see over most of Central London.

Then I went down to the crypt hoping to see the tomb of Christopher Wren but unfortunately there was a wedding in this chapel so I couldn’t see it but did get to see Horatio Nelson’s tomb.

So that was that and I needed to find something else to do that day so as you may have gathered I am rather fond of museums so I headed off to the London Museum.

London Museum

The London Museum is surprisingly good, I say that because when you walk up to it, it doesn’t look pretty shoddy but once you are inside it is great. It is laid out in a different way to other museums.

The way to do the museum is too start at the beginning and go through each section which represents another part of history. The first section is 450,000 BC – 50 AD. This deals with early humans and animals around London during this time. Then it moves on to Roman times and outside the museum there is still part of the Roman city wall. From Roman times you move on to medieval times and this continues to modern London and present day London. It really is a good museum and is worth a visit if you are in the area and need something to do.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

30 August 2010

Notting Hill Carnival

So I ventured off to the Notting Hill Carnival with stories of stabbings and gang related activity and was warned to get out of there when the sun went down. On the Sunday which is considered family day there were 80 arrests made. Over a million people attend the carnival each year and it is the biggest street carnival in Europe.

The carnival is basically a celebration of being from the Caribbean and features a variety of floats with people dressed in elaborate costumes. Music plays all day from the different floats and as the day goes on it becomes more and more rowdy.

A colleague of mine had said to me if you see people running in one direction get out the way. 10 minutes after he had said that we were in Portobello road when a mass of people started running towards us followed by flying bottles. I managed to scramble to the wall and watched as the bottle throwing dicks went by.

Overall it is a pretty good but tiring day out, if I had to do it again I would rather stick to one spot and then watch the floats from there. When the sun went down I got out of there.

28 August 2010

Well I heard that I should go to Seven Dials while I was here which is near Covent Garden tube station so I hopped on the tube and headed off to Covent Garden.

Covent Garden

Covent Garden is a popular tourist spot because of the street performers as well as the stalls selling various souvenirs. Most of the stalls are inside the old vegetable market from the 17th century. There is also the church of St. Pauls which has an entrance looking onto the main square but this is actually a fake entrance and the real entrance is located at the back of the church. There was a street performer trying to get the crowd going outside the church but I think most of them were thinking “go away Gypsy there is no place for you here”. After having a look around some of the stalls I headed off to Seven Dials.

Seven Dials

Seven Dials is point where seven roads meet and in the middle is a pillar which has six sun dials on it. At each of the corners of the seven roads there is a different shop, pub or theatre. Cambridge Theatre is located here and is currently showing Chicago. There was also a protest happening at the time down one of the roads. It looked like Palestinians and Israelis having a waving of their respective flags session.

Sir John Soane Museum

Holborn is pretty close to Covent Garden and I had heard of a museum in Holborn that was not very well known but worth a visit. So I headed down to the Sir John Soane Museum to have a look around. It is located in an area that must have been where some rich Londoners lived and maybe do still live because around a field there is a square of grand town houses and the museum is in one of these houses.

It was not a great start to the visit as we had to queue outside whilst a rather serious looking woman told us to switch our cellphones off. Then we were only allowed in once people had left and we had to put any shoulder bags in a plastic bag which was uncomfortable to carry. Anyway apart from that warm welcome the museum is pretty great with a eclectic collection of various paintings, architecture drawings, models, ancient sculptures and even the alabaster sarcophagus of Seti I.

John Soane designed the Bank of England building and various other commercial buildings.

Somerset House

After the museum I took a walk around and ended up at Somerset House which is a massive house on the Thames that no houses the civil services. It is built in a square shape with an open court yard in the middle. Each of the four sides is beautifully designed and is incredibly impressive. There is a water feature in the middle and sprays water in the air. It is quite easy to stand in the middle and look at the buildings for awhile. You can take a tour of the house but I was pretty tired at this point so I decided to head home.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

21 August 2010

My Saturday ritual of waking up and consulting the Top 10 London book, picking something to do and going there continues. Today I decided Marylebone seemed like a good spot to go to. So I got on the tube at Shepherd’s Bush market Station and headed to the Baker’s Street and then up to Marylebone. First stop Lord’s Cricket Ground for the stadium tour.


So the tour office is tucked away in a corner behind the member’s pavilion. The tour starts in the museum where the Ashes are kept, I knew the urn was small but it is smaller than you think and I walked straight past it without noticing. It is really odd that this great cricketing battle takes place over this tin urn and the players that win it don’t even get to touch it. A replica is used for the photos and the publicity afterwards.

From there we went to view a Real Tennis court and watched two guys play this odd game. From the serve the ball has to bounce at least once on top of a roof before crossing the net. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside so I couldn’t get a shot of the court.

Next it was off to the long room where the players have to walk through to get to the pitch. Sometimes it is difficult for them because it is so packed with members. Next it was off to the committee room where the rules of the game are decided and talked about.

From there it was up the stairs to the player’s dressing room. The dressing rooms are pretty low key. I am sure there are better facilities at the top clubs in SA. The player’s balcony is tiny and you have to walk across a passage way to get to the showers. This caused a problem when they allowed the women members into the club. The honours boards are impressive in a sense that they are filled with the great cricketing names but they are not exactly fancy. They are just wooden boards with black print. You would expect dark wood with golden print but they are pretty plain. We then went to the away dressing room where I answered the question of who beat the 73 year old record held by Bradman of the highest visitors score at Lords. If you guessed Graeme Smith then you are correct.

From there it was out onto the Grand Stand where we were allowed to take pictures and from there we went up into the ugly media centre. They are very proud of it at Lords but it looks ridiculous. The view from the centre is brilliant and the facilities are excellent. That was the end of the tour and I had a great time and every cricket lover should go to Lords.

Regent's Park

Regent’s Park is located pretty close to Lords so I walked down there to check it out. On the way I passed the Central London Mosque which is pretty ugly if I am honest. It consists of a great big gold dome and a concrete tower. Luckily the surrounding area is covered in trees and you don’t have to look at it too often.

I walked through Regent’s which is one of the many Royal parks in London. Queen mary’s garden is in the park and has a range of flowers as well as an open air theatre. As plants aren’t really my thing I left the park and headed to the Wallace Collection.

Wallace Collection

I wasn’t too sure of where the building was so while I was on Marylebone High Street I saw a map showing you where the tourist spots were and to my surprise the Wallace Collection was 20 metres away from the map.

The Museum was established in 1897 when Sir Richard Wallace’s wife left the building and the vast collection of art to the nation. It is a magnificent old house with elaborate rooms filled with art, furniture and pottery from the 15th to 19th century. There are even these little wax sculptures in frames that cannot be exposed to direct sunlight so they are kept in cabinets that are covered in cloth that you lift up when you want to have a peek. Boucher’s paintings were pretty cool as well as the Italian paintings. The Italian paintings seem to have more vibrant colours which I seem to like more than other paintings. The Wallace Collection is free so if you find yourself in this part of London pop in and have a look around you don’t have to spend to long there and is well worth it.

From there I walked along Oxford Street, stopping off at a few shops along the way. Then I hopped on the tube and headed home after an excellent day.

Monday, 16 August 2010

14 August 2010

I have been a bit slack with this blog lately which I apologize for. I wasn’t particularly inspired after a failed Saturday last weekend. I went to a Museum that I travelled for ages to get to and it was extremely disappointing. I can see stuffed animals and African art at home.
This Saturday more than made up for it. An email was sent around work on Wednesday that two tickets were available for the Diamond League athletics at Crystal Palace, so I replied saying I was keen and the tickets were mine. Muhahahahahahahahahahahaha.


I was pretty excited when I woke up because I had never been to a professional athletics meet before and thought that it would be pretty cool. Crystal palace is in South London so it was a bit of a mission to get there. I met a work colleague at Victoria station and we took the over ground train down to Crystal Palace. We made it just in time for the start of the athletics. On Friday Tyson Gay had run the season’s fastest time of 9.78 seconds for the 100 metres so I think the crowd was pretty excited which made for a great atmosphere. It was also a full house so it meant that the athletes were inspired to perform at their best. That might just be wishful thinking though.

The day started off with an invitational relay with a mixture of radio personalities, journalists and ex-athletes, just a bit of fun to get the crowd going. The first thing you notice about the meet is that it is all really organized, the announcer keeps you informed, the helpers come out in a line to help with togs and the officials get the next event started straight away. There is also up beat music playing all the time which adds to the excitement. Overall I was impressed with the event and had a great time.


Oscar Pistorius

Oscar ran in the T44 400m event and broke the world record. I had never seen him before. He runs as if nothing is wrong with his legs. He has a great running style and he broke his own record by 0.45 seconds.

Javelin throw

It is pretty weird watching javelin live, it is almost peaceful watching the javelin fly through the air and plant itself nicely in the turf. You are in the stands so you can’t hear the grunt of the thrower. The guy that won the event threw one that seemed much further than anyone else but it seems he only won by 50cm.

Women’s 100m

I don’t know what it is about the 100m but it is really fun to watch just seeing someone going over the finish line as fast as they can go. The athletes seem to fade at the end of longer races. This event was cool because the heats were earlier in the day so you got to see who was running well before the event.

Men’s & Women’s 400m and Women’s 800m

These events just seems like the hardest events of any athletics meet. By the end of the race all the athletes look dead and because it is basically a sprint for one or two laps and there is no time to rest for a little bit. The 800m was pretty good because it is tactically a good race with athletes being boxed in and when do you kick?

Men’s 200m

This race was dominated by Wallace Spearman who is the fifth fastest 200m runner of all time and was one of the athletes that was disqualified at the Olympics for stepping out of his lane. It was good to watch him destroy the field.

110m Hurdles

It is pretty amazing how fast these guys can run after jumping over a hurdle. You would think that after landing you would be all out of whack and slow down but it seems that they just get faster. The European champion Andy Turner was running in this final after winning his heat earlier in the day but ended up coming last in the final. The home crowd weren’t too happy with this.


The mile was the last race of the day and is a tradition at the london atlectics meet. The winner signs a leather bound book which has all the winners signatures in it. Not sure if they get to keep it or a year or they get a copy of it or something but it seems like a pretty good race to win and add your name to the likes of Roger Bannister.

Overall it was a great day and I had fun. I would recommend that if you have any interest in athletics you go and see these athletes perform at their best. You might have wondered why I haven’t put any photos in the text. The reason is that I took so many that I thought I would put all the best ones at the bottom so you can go through them.

Monday, 2 August 2010

30 July 2010

The Challenge

Before leaving Cape Town I was set a challenge of finding Little Ben and the only clue I was given was that it was near one of the main train stations in London. This clue was not much help because I had never been to London before and therefore did not know the big stations. After being here for a few weeks I decided it was time to find Little Ben.

I had been to a few of the “main” stations before and not seen Little Ben. After deciding what I wanted to do on Saturday I chose the biggest station near these attractions and got off, sorry alighted at this particular station.

What was it that I decided to do? Well I hadn’t seen the Tate Britain or the Imperial War Museum and they are relatively close to each other and the nearest large station to them is Victoria Station.

Little Ben

So I alighted at Victoria Station and went up to road level and turned right and then I saw Little Ben. As you can see it is black which is slightly disappointing if you are going to make a model of something at least get the colour right. But I am glad I have found it and taken a picture of it.

Tate Britain

My first impression was that it was much smaller than I had expected and the names of the paintings are quite boring “Girl with White Dog” and “Wooded Landscape with a Peasant Resting”. The best part is you can spend less than two hours there and not feel like you have missed anything. The first thing you see when you walk in is a fighter jet hanging from the ceiling which is pretty weird seeing as most of the artwork is more than 100 years old. The paintings are brilliant although early Britons were an ugly bunch. The abstract art is crap, I mean how hard is it to paint a large piece of wood and cut a hole in the middle?

Imperial War Museum

I have always been fascinated by World War II, I don’t know why but it is the case. So for a person like me the Imperial War Museum is a brilliant place to go. The foyer of the museum is filled with planes from both WWI and WWII hanging from the roof as well as various other modes of transport like tanks, boats and even a one man submarine. Not only are the exhibits from the Allied forces but also from German forces. There are little rooms with different themed exhibits in them and the best one of them is the holocaust exhibit. It takes you from the beginning of anti-Semitism in Germany through to the concentration camps by using different displays. It really is a brilliant and moving exhibit. There is even a huge model of Auswich as well as artefacts from the camps.

Wondering around the Southbank

I decided just to wander around a bit and walked to the London Eye where the queue was huge. So walked along the Thames and to the National Theatre where they had this odd show going on outside where these two actresses thought it was funny to where a backpack and a tent. I really don’t get abstract art. Anyway after tiring rapidly I ventured home satisfied that I had seen some pretty cool stuff (as well as some random shit).

Sunday, 25 July 2010

25 July 2010

Another Great Sunday in London

After a rather quiet Saturday I decided that I needed to get out and do something, which is exactly what I did. Here is how the day went; The Tower of London, Tate Modern and then the Monument.

The Tower of London

After getting off the tube at Tower Hill you walk through a subway and first thing you see is the Tower of London which would have been fantastic is it wasn’t covered in scaffolding. This ruined the photo opportunity but didn’t dampen my spirit. You walk around the tower to go buy your tickets which are not cheap, £17 for an adult, wish I was still a student.

They have fantastic guided tours with tour guides dressed in traditional guard dress. The tour guides speak loud and really jeer up the crowd. The first thing we heard was the story of James Scott who was the eldest illegitimate son of Charles II and was executed at the tower. He was executed by James Ketch who after consuming quite a few ales took 5 blows to severe the head of Scott. A lovely Disney story to start the day off. We didn’t stay with the tour for long but proceeded to visit the different towers. There was a fantastic exhibition on in the White Tower display 5 centuries of royal armour. It was impressive to see what they had to wear to battle and how little they could see out of their helmets. All displays were brilliant except for the Windsor display because all they had to show was a polo cap and some pads. I think Henry VIII would of kicked the shit out of Prince Charles.

Unfortunately the queue to see the crown jewels was ridiculously long so I didn’t get to see them but I did get to see some older crowns as well as Traitors Gate and various other interesting sites.

Tate Modern

From there I went off to the Tate Modern which is the modern art gallery. It has some pretty interesting pieces but doesn’t really float my boat. If you want to throw some clothes on the floor and call it art that is your thing but I just get told to clean it up. I did however get to see some pieces by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein which was great. I really enjoyed the Warhol room. Another highlight was a display of photographs taken by Bruce Davidson. Definitely find them if you get the chance.


From there I went across Millennium Bridge to St. Pauls cathedral but it was closed so I didn’t go inside. Out of the corner of my eye I saw this large monument with a gold sculpture on top so I decided to walk towards it and check it out. As I got closer I realised that there were people on top of the monument and thought there must be some amazing views from up there so I investigated and it turns out that there were stairs going all the way up the middle of it.

It is called The Monument and was erected to represent the destruction and rebirth of London after the great fire in 1666. It was designed by Christopher Wren, who also designed St. Paul’s Cathedral. It stands 61 metres high, which is the exact distance from the bakery where the fire started in Pudding Lane to the monument. It cost me £3 to go to climb the 311 stairs and from the top there are so great panoramic views of the city. Unfortunately because Britain is a nanny state the viewing platform is covered in a protective net, making photography a little difficult.

Sorry about all the facts in this one but I learnt a lot today and thought I would share them with everyone.